On August 20, 2021, Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, announced his newest project, currently in development during the Tesla AI Day presentation. It’s called the ‘Tesla Bot’ and was designed off of a humanoid form. According to Musk, the Tesla bot will be designed to do dangerous, repetitive and boring tasks. It wasn’t specified exactly what these jobs would be designed for but it was mentioned that it should be able run everyday errands like grocery shopping or dog walking if bought by households once released.
During his presentation, Musk did address the elephant in the room. An end-of-the-world “Terminator style” scenario was considered by Musk with him saying “You never know”. To prevent this, the Tesla Bot was made deliberately weak so most average humans can take it down. It will also be limited to a walking speed of 8km/h which is way slower than the average human running speed of 45 km/h.
For businesses and firms though, these robots may provide the most practical benefit. This is because they would be able to “hire” cheap laborers that could work for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Dramatically more efficient than human workers, working 8 hours a day, five days a week on average. Most people fear that this may replace most repetitive work that they rely on for income.
This is the reason why some people are afraid of this new advancement. There is a risk that if Elon Musk is able to fulfill his promises, the robot would drastically increase unemployment as workers would be replaced by robots. This concern was also mentioned by Musk and how the government would then have to provide a universal basic income, an unconditional, regular, monetary allowance paid by the government to all citizens.
Marques Brownlee, one of top voices in the Youtube tech space however is doubtful that this kind of situation would actually come to fruition. He comments that a humanoid robot is incredibly inefficient and mentions that we as humans are only relatively efficient because everything in the human world around us is designed ergonomically for us. He explains that generally, robots should not be humanoid in order to be efficient but should instead be designed for a specific task. Examples include robot vacuums like the Roomba, or Tesla’s autopilot compatible cars. These robots are designed based on completing a certain task, they are specialists not generalists, which makes them good at what they do. It would not be practical to have a humanoid robot getting into your Tesla and driving you around, the car itself is the robot.
Essentially, what this all means is that the capabilities of this robot would be incredibly limited unless Tesla could make a humanoid robot that is as efficient as any human. If this proves true it should quell fears of robots stealing people’s jobs, at least for a while. However, this suggests that Tesla could have a different motive for releasing this robot. Whatever the case though, The Tesla Bot, once released next year could potentially be the next step in the development of robotics, science and maybe humanity as a whole.